Chinese models begin to dominate nation's catwalks

Updated 2017-08-23 16:03:17 China Daily
Foreign hopefuls attend a casting session for a company promotion in Shanghai.

Foreign hopefuls attend a casting session for a company promotion in Shanghai.

Foreign models strut on a catwalk in a fashion show in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region this month.

Foreign models strut on a catwalk in a fashion show in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region this month.

Foreign faces no longer have the edge in the domestic modeling scene.

In the eight years he has spent in China as a professional model, Alexandr Pozhar has witnessed major changes in the domestic industry.

When he first arrived in Shanghai, eight to 10 foreign models usually attended each casting session, but now there are scores of them, according to the 30-year-old Ukrainian-Russian dual national.

"If it's a large-scale casting, maybe 300 models will join the first round of competition. About 20 will then be chosen to go through to the next round, and at the end of the day, after several more rounds, the client will choose the winner," said Pozhar, who has a decade of experience on the catwalk and fashion shoots.

"Most candidates who stand in line for the client just hear 'OK, thanks, bye-bye' within just a few minutes of joining the line."

In addition to capricious clients, Pozhar and his foreign peers face another challenge. They are losing opportunities as a result of many clients' growing preferences for local faces, a result of a growing appreciation of fashion among Chinese customers and the rising international status of domestic models, allied to their distinctive looks which can draw target audiences.

"Foreign models no longer enjoy an absolute advantage over their Chinese counterparts. The line between foreign and domestic models is not so obvious anymore," said Zheng Yi, president of Esee Model Management in Shanghai, one of the largest modeling agencies in China.

"Once living expenses and travel costs are included, there are almost no differences between the incomes the two groups can earn," he said, noting that most young models can make between 10,000 yuan and 20,000 yuan (,500-3,000) a month.

However, the new reality hasn't stopped foreign models, including those with vast experience, from coming to China in the hope of finding work in the domestic market, which offers a greater range of opportunities than any other Asian country.

Pozhar said that when he first arrived in China, most agencies had no more than 10 foreign models, but in recent years, the number has tripled.

"A decade ago, winning a modeling contract in another country was like 'Wow! Out of the whole town I'm the one!' However, now it seems that everyone who is young and tall flies overseas to work as a model," he said.

Even though he has worked for several international brands, including Hermes and Christian Dior, Pozhar has often had to compete with younger peers, who are mostly about age 18 and in their best years in terms of looks and body shape.

In some cases, he has endured demanding and unreasonable clients.

"On countless occasions, clients put far too much makeup on my face, which I didn't like at all and spent two days removing. But I cannot lose my temper. If I reject an opportunity, they will still have 100 people to choose from," he said.

There have also been times when he has been hired to model 10 pieces of clothing, but once on set he has been asked to model five more items, without receiving extra pay.

"I have a well-honed figure, so sometimes I am asked to go shirtless, for which I should be paid extra. In most cases I remain silent because I don't want to lose clients or cause trouble," he said.

Models are paid by the hour, so from the time they arrive at a shoot the client and their makeup team urge them to change clothes quickly-usually in about 30 seconds-and rarely communicate about anything else.

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